The Future of the Indigenous Economy

David Stobbe / Stobbe Photo


Indigenous entrepreneurs continue to drive economic prosperity for their own communities and for the country. They are doing so in the context of increasing recognition and legal affirmations of the rights of Indigenous communities. How can this growing prosperity be supported and accelerated? Building from the core of self-determination, what capacity building, institutional innovation, governance frameworks, and financing arrangements can best enable the success of the Indigenous economy?

On February 16, the Foundation co-hosted an event with the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Regina on the future of the Indigenous economy in Canada and the enabling conditions for an accelerated and successful economic prosperity.

The Future of the Indigenous Economy showcased a panel of three experts representing the non-profit sector and Indigenous communities and businesses. Ken Coates, Tabatha Bull, and Chief Cadmus Delorme shared their perspectives on what it takes to build and maintain success in Indigenous economies.

The panel explored ways for reimagining the Canadian economy and fostering indigenous businesses to advance economic prosperity in light of the growth and resilience of Indigenous entrepreneurship, especially on remote reserves with no high-speed internet coverage. Nurturing those businesses is happening, but not at the desired pace, calling for significant efforts and interventions from public policy advisors to accelerate big changes and impact.

The panel highlighted remarkable achievements and successes in indigenous economic development, such as the growth of a multinational coffeehouse and restaurant chain on the Cowessess property and prominent developments and opportunities in agriculture and renewable energy. Issues at the interface of land, access to capital, and social capital were explored, as well as considerations around lessons learnt from failures, supportive institutions, the location of the enterprise, and indigenous leadership, all of which can influence the success of indigenous businesses. The panel also addressed the unique challenges and opportunities for the economic transition, shedding light on the imperative role of advocacy as a key guiding principle.

Finally, insights on accelerating the future of indigenous economy were offered. Proposed solutions included a focus on the governance of business to inform sound decision-making; supporting emerging and ambitious institutions that are gaining traction; creating grants for indigenous entrepreneurs; investments in a government-wide indigenous entrepreneurship strategy and in the training of indigenous people in executive leadership positions; and a federal indigenous equity fund to support indigenous partnerships.

The panel concluded with a Q&A session. The event was attended by an in-person audience and was available online via livestream.

To watch the full event, click here.